Climate Change: What can one person do?

We’re all aware that one person making a change in their lifestyle isn’t going to change the world. But, if many individuals all change their behaviour, it has the power to change the entire economy. As one person, we can sure make a difference! Our leaders follow what society demands. And we are society. So let’s all come together as individuals and use our people power to bring about change in governments and big organizations. The change society desperately needs starts with us – you and me!

People power: Join the Fridays for Future Movement

Climate change protest sign

In order to change the laws, we have to change society itself, because the leaders follow the popular opinions in society (in democracies). So, we need to make climate change a normal thing to talk about. We need to start at the bottom and get as many voters as we can onboard before going to the leaders. Because while the leaders might not listen to little old me, they can’t help but listen when more than half of the population is demanding change.

Join millions around the world who are standing up and making themselves heard to their fellow voters and to their leaders.

Speak up: let’s get everyone educated

The biggest impacts on climate change will come when governments pass laws to enforce them. In democratic countries the power lies with the people. It is us who put our leaders in place, and our leaders listen to the majority of voters. So, we need to the voters more aware of the problem.

There’s no point making demands of the government if we don’t have a majority of our country also agreeing with us. We need everyone on board. Individuals with a non-climate agenda will still be able to find their way into positions of power as long as there are still voters who deny the issue.

Of course, we’re not going to be able to change the minds of everyone. Some people just can’t be reasoned with. But by getting out there and talking about it, we make behaviour change a more normal and easy to do thing for people in society, we make climate change a more acceptable thing to stand up for. This is how we change society with a bottom up approach.

Already we are seeing massive strikes happening around the world, where people are coming together to show their governments and their peers that the Earth is our number one priority. There is no planet B.

Text poster saying there is no planet B

Vote for the Earth

Look at your local government members and their policies. Vote for the ones who are going to focus on the climate emergency. Their voices are the ones that need to be heard on a national scale – let’s help get them into government to represent our planet.

Here’s what Lil Dicky has to say on voting, “Vote for someone who cares about the environment. Together we can turn this planet into an 100% renewable energy planet. It just takes care. Do you care? Or are you just cool with death?”

But just remember, we don’t have time to sit around waiting for the next election to come up. We also need to vote with our actions.

Which brings me to the next point…

Divest: Use your money wisely

Money talks. And it’s another way we can signal to governments and businesses that we demand a change. Now, this relies on us not being selfish and trying to survive as individuals, but instead focusing on trying to survive as a species.

Get out of investments that don’t align with your climate views. Here’s a video of some people who have been doing that for years. It’s called divesting and it’s where we deprive a specific industry of the resources (in this case funding) necessary to keep doing what they’re doing.

Individual behaviour: inspire with your actions

The biggest thing with making changes to your own life isn’t the planet saving part, but it’s the part where you inspire others with your actions. If you can inspire two people, and those two people inspire another four people, and those four people inspire eight people, that’s how change spreads, and that’s when change happens at a political level.

We humans are pack animals. We like to follow what seems safe and acceptable. Our public policies and individual choices are based on what we see and accept in society as a whole. If more and more people start making the switch to green energy and make more sustainable decisions in their homes and businesses, more and more people will see how easy it is and they will follow.

Eat less (or stop eating) meat and dairy

The issue with eating red meat is the livestock, particularly cows. I’ve written another post specifically addressing this. But basically, cows produce a heck of a lot of methane and consume valuable resources on a large scale that could be used more efficiently, which is actually worse than carbon dioxide. Now, the solution isn’t to go out there and kill all the cows, but we do need to reduce our reliance on this industry. This allows us to make space for producing plants for our consumption and allows other ecosystems the chance to thrive and not become extinct. Click here to read more about why we shouldn’t eat meat and dairy.

Eat locally grown food

The less your food has to travel to get to your plate, the more sustainable it is. So pick the food that’s the least taxing on our planet and eat local. This site has some good reasons why we should become a locavore.

Stop wasting food

I’m sure a lot of us in Western countries have heard the phrase, “Eat your food. There are starving kids in Africa.” Although whether I do or don’t finish my meal may not directly impact another hungry person, the stats speak for themselves.

  • The environmental benefits of preventing food waste would be the same as taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.

How do we stop wasting food?

Obviously there needs to be a lot of changes made at every stage of the food production and distribution process. But since this is about what you as an individual can do, I’m going to focus on that.

Only buy what you need. Refrigerators have grown in size by 15% since the 1970s. As a result of all this extra space, people tend to fill up their fridge and forget about the food in the back.
Eat your leftovers. I know it can get boring to eat the same food for a few days in a row (if you’re privileged enough to have that option), but eating your leftovers the next day won’t kill you. If you find you always have too much food, consider buying/cooking less in the first place.
Freeze food. Did you know that a lot of food can be frozen, including bread, potatoes, fruit, and milk? Even eggs can be frozen. Freeze food when it’s getting close to its use by date.
Know the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’. Food should be used by it’s use by date, but is often safe to eat after the best before date. So make sure you check if it’s edible before carelessly throwing it out!
Order meals without the items you’re not going to eat. We have this mentality that if we’re paying for a meal, we should get every item that we’re paying for. But if you’re just going to waste some of it, ask for those items to be left off, or take them home for your dog. Just don’t waste them.
Make new food from your leftovers. This is a great site called Love Food, Hate Waste that has a heap of recipes to help you use up your excess food.
Replant your vegetable cuttings to grow more! This site tells you how.

Fly less

According to this site, the flight industry uses 5 million barrels of oil every day. Plane exhaust fumes are responsible for killing 10,000 people each year. We currently have no clean energy way to fly around millions of people every day, and our flights are costing human and animal lives and destroying our atmosphere. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

Planes emit a gas called nitrogen oxide, which is 300 times worse than carbon dioxide. This study concluded that planes contribute a large amount to levels of nitrogen oxide in the troposphere (which is where the clouds are). And planes also emit large amounts of carbon dioxide. In fact, by 2050 it’s estimated that planes could be responsible for emitting 5% of the world’s carbon budget.

This site has graphs showing the amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere currently. As you can see, the levels have gone up drastically in recent years.

Graph showing the increasing levels of nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere from N2Olevels.org

Attend your local neighborhood cleanup or dive cleanup

Litter is terrible for our environment, ecosystems, and wildlife. Even though we may not be part of the litter problem, we can still be part of the solution. There’s no point leaving it up to someone else when we’re right here with two hands and can do something about it right now.

If your local community is having a clean up day, get involved.

Even better, organize a regular clean up day and get people to join. You benefit from getting to know people in your community too, because we’re all so out of touch these days.

And if you’re not the organizing type, take a bag or a box out with you on your daily walk and pick up any litter you see along the way. Join the other amazing human beings who demonstrate they care for our Earth in such wonderful ways.

Plant some trees

Just remember that you can’t plant a tree and then you’re done with saving the world. Planting a tree is helpful, but it doesn’t make a difference if you stop there.

And trees can help you in more ways than you think. You can actually save 40% on energy expenses if you plant the right trees in the right spots around your home by providing shade and reducing on your air-conditioning costs. If you plant trees that lose their leaves in winter, then that’s even better because you have shade in summer and sunlight in winter.

Make sure you research the best type of trees for your local area, including how well it can grow in the soil in your area.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

This site has a lot of information on things we can do, so I recommend taking a look there. However, I’ll dot point some below for those of you who can’t be bothered clicking.

Reduce: Cut down on things you don’t need

  • Use email instead of paper mail
  • Cut down on unnecessary electricity/water use around your home
  • Avoid using disposable plates and cutlery
  • Buy items with less plastic packaging

Reuse: get creative and conserve!

  • Store items in old jars or donate them to people who make jam
  • Use old newspaper for packaging items or gift wrapping
  • Donate old clothes, books and equipment to charities

Recycle: Learn what is being recycled in your area

  • Buy products in packaging that can be recycled
  • Buy products made from recycled materials

Even though lots of things can be recycled, it won’t be if there’s no facility to do so. This means you need to find out which items are being recycled in your local area. A great place to start is to check with your local council to find out exactly what items should go in the recycle bin. This could include: aluminium, cardboard, glass, magazines, metal, newspaper, paper, plastic bags, plastic bottles and more.

And keep in mind that even though we can recycle, it’s still better to not create so much rubbish in the first place! So, the less packaging, the better. The less plastic bottles we use, the better. Because the sad truth is, only 9% of the world’s plastic gets recycled, which means the other 91% of it is out there in the oceans and on the land harming innocent wildlife. And even worse, it can take 400 years to break down.

Look at ways to make your home and life more energy efficient

We’ve all heard of green energy, and there’s costs and benefits to converting to it. Not everyone can afford solar power or to install a windmill, so I’m going to focus on things we can all easily change. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

  • Buy energy saving appliances
  • Use a smaller fridge/freezer
  • Turn things off when you’re not using them
  • Put on warm clothes in winter and add a few degrees to your thermostat
  • Open the windows in summer and let the breeze circulate and cool your house instead of the air-conditioning
  • Carpool to work or use public transport or cycle if you can
  • Go for a run outside instead of using the treadmill which consuming energy

Have less children: consider adoption

This is going to be a very controversial one, but I’m going to throw it in here. There’s no deying that human overpopulation is probably having the biggest impact on the environment. Us humans are actually pretty weak physically, so we have a lot of predators out there that can kill us, from sharks and lions to mosquitoes and spiders. But we’ve found a way to overcome them all, so there’s not much that’s keeping our population in check.

We’re very fond of culling animal populations when they get too large. But of course, we need to find other approaches when it comes to our own species. The best way we can do that is by having less children. See, if you have four children, and those four children have four children, and those four children have four children each, you end up with 64 great grandchildren which is not something to be proud of in this current world.

And the fact is that we in Western countries are living off the resources from poorer countries. So the more of us there are and the longer we continue to refuse to share resources, the lower the quality of life gets for those in poorer places. And the lower their quality of life, the more vulnerable groups of people, like children, get abandoned because nobody can look after them.

In the case of adoption, I know there’s arguments for and against the environmental impacts, so I want to look more into this in the future. For example, in the case of China’s one child policy, there’s an argument that adoption could encourage families to try for more children, since many wanted a boy. So, adoption doesn’t solve all the world’s problems, but it is a start.

Of course, if you don’t feel you can love an adopted child, please don’t adopt simply to make a point about the environment. But if you feel you can, then I encourage you to read more about it. Here’s an interview about adoption and the environment.

And if adoption is such a terrible thing to you, it might be worth considering bringing less life into this world until we fix the problems that we’re currently facing.

Be less of a consumer and more of a conserver

I know we all like to buy those cheap T-shirts and novelty items. But in doing so, we are supporting production and therefore carbon emissions in countries such as China. Before we point the finger at China and other countries, we need to look at ourselves. It’s our consumeristic behaviour that enables and encourages this type of large scale manufacturing to happen.

So, if you can afford it, check the tags of everything you buy and try to purchase items made locally and sustainably. You’re also saving the travel emission costs of getting the items to your door.

Be kind: Encourage rather than exasperate. Invite, rather than alienate.

Even though you can see the value in what you’re doing to save the environment, you have to be very careful about how you approach others with your ideas. People can get very defensive when they feel like their way of life is threatened. And our aim is to educate and encourage, not to aggravate others.

We have to understand that changing behaviour of entire societies is not an easy thing to do. To change behaviour, we need to change minds. Just because you care about something, doesn’t mean someone else does. Just because you researched the issue, doesn’t mean someone else wants to. Just because you see solutions, doesn’t mean someone else is willing to try them. So, we need to give them a reason to care and we need to give them easy ways to make a change that are achievable for them. We need to invite others to see things from a different perspective, rather than alienating them because they don’t see it our way.

Sign saying eco not ego from unsplash

Coming at people in an aggressive and threatening way is likely to make them just run from you and from the problem. We need to make sure we recognize the efforts people are making and encourage them to keep going and do more.

Blaming people for what they’re not doing can have terrible outcomes for both sides because blame only activates defenses and results in more blame. The solution is not to have two extremes standing around yelling at each other. We are all hypocrites in this issue, we are all responsible for creating it, and we are all responsible to solve it. But remember, when we point a finger at someone else, we have three fingers pointing back at ourselves.

So, let’s refrain from immature name calling and making uninformed sweeping statements about any group of people based on their values, beliefs, culture, education, financial status, religion, lifestyle choices, or anything else. And let’s have a mature and informed conversation that leads to positive outcomes.

Remember, we are never going to get everyone to agree 100% with our exact point of view, but we can get lots of people on board to change for the climate so the climate doesn’t change.

Sign saying every day is future from Unsplash

Please help me add to this list and together we can make some changes for the Earth!

P.S. Op Shops are great, let’s get thrifty for the environment.

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